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      Money Talks News: The Fastest Way to Raise a Credit Score

      "As a proprietor of a bowling center, my bowling score is very important. But I have to admit that my credit score is way more important to me than my bowling score."

      If this guy thinks credit scores are that important, it's got to tell you something.

      The most widely used credit score, the FICO score, ranges from 300 to a perfect 850. To get yours out of the gutter as fast as possible, we asked for some tips from FICO.

      "People think oh, if I miss a payment here or if I miss a payment there, it's not a big deal. But since payment history is 35 percent of the FICO score, it's critical that you pay your bills on time, every time."

      Paying on time: one way to improve a score, but not the fastest. Want to speed it up?

      Step one is to check your credit history. It's free at Look for errors, and dispute any you find with the credit reporting agency.

      Then free up some credit by paying off a few small balances. That alone will help you pick up a few spare points.

      Step three: Lower that utilization ratio: that's the amount of debt outstanding compared to your available credit.

      There are two ways to do it: either pay down debt, or increase your credit limits.

      Then there are things to avoid: closing old accounts, applying for new credit, and asking for a lower limit.

      All could handicap your score.

      Bottom line: If striking a better deal on a mortgage or other loan is something that might be up your alley, then what you want to do is work on that credit score.

      It's going to make a difference. I've got more tips that are going to help you.

      Go to and do a search for "credit scores."

      For Money Talks News, I'm Stacy Johnson.